Editor's Desk

Can you tell when someone is trying to sell you something? It can be easy to tell when someone is directly in front of you with a product, or even if they are calling you on the phone. On the television, commercials are obvious advertisements compelling you to buy a certain thing – odds that improve after you’ve seen the same commercial five times, scientists have found. But what about the selling that is taking place during shows, movies, or songs themselves, and what about when it isn’t exactly clear what is being sold?

Mass media has changed a lot since it got its bearings in the first half of the 1900s. The industry has learned a lot from the field of psychology, including how to, for lack of a better descriptor, brainwash consumers into a particular line of thinking. There are no attempts to hide this method of operating, and modern media is filled with attempts to influence behavior – including casually compelling people to be more violent, emotional, and promiscuous. Humans naturally reflect what they see, meaning mass media is very much influencing the direction of society.

Censorship and the National League of Decency no longer hold public sway, but as individual consumers we can and should teach ourselves and our families when we are being sold something that we might not want. We may not be able to block something from being shown or heard, but we can recognize its message and teach away from it. There are many resources available to help yourself, your family, or your classroom become more media savvy, some of which are viewable on websites such as www.medialit.org.